India lose strike bowler Zaheer after winning the toss in helpful conditions
Close: First Test, day one, Lord’s
Match score: England 127-2 (Trott 58*, Pietersen 22*; Zaheer Khan 13.3-8-18-2) Full scorecard
Session score: Rain
In 1972 Lord’s witnessed the most extraordinary Test debut of all time, the West Australian Bob Massie becoming the first Australian to take 16 wickets in a Test.
In similarly cloudy, close conditions to that June day, Zaheer Khan didn’t even manage 16 overs, never mind 16 wickets.
He pulled up lame half way, clutching his right hamstring, through his 14th over and Praveen Kumar, who was later warned for running down the middle of the pitch, had to complete his over.
Zaheer’s injury, coupled with shoddy slip fielding from Rahul Dravid, was the price India pay for their lack of preparation and their poor conditioning. Zaheer, who looked flabby around the chest and stomach, bowled in the first innings of India’s warn-up match at Taunton last week but his previous first-class match was a Test at Cape Town in January.
It is not yet known if Zaheer can play any further part in this Test but it would be a surprise if he were to bowl again.
The afternoon session was washed out but there was a brief hope that play would resume at 6.30pm. In anticipation of this, Dravid, the leading outfield catcher in Test history, was to be seen on his own in front of the pavilion trying to hone his slip-catching.
Having lost the toss, England can be well satisfied with a patient, disciplined performance in conditions that defined the word Test. Old-fashioned Test creekit, Boycott would say.
Kumar swung the ball massively, almost Massie-ly, but he swung it early and his lack of pace allowed England’s openers the time to avoid mishap. If Jimmy Anderson had bowled this morning England would have expected more than the one wicket India managed.
Zaheer, though, was exceptional. Thrifty and threatening, he gradually tightened a noose round England’s innings. No runs were scored from the bat from his first 16 balls and his second spell of four overs were all maidens. When Jonathan Trott edged him for four between MS Dhoni, the wicketkeeper, and Dravid at slip, it was the first scoring shot off him for 33 balls.
We hear a lot about executing plans these days and no one could have executed a plan better than Zaheer. He dismissed Alastair Cook and Andrew Strauss in precisely the same manner as on India’s last tour here in 2007.
Cook was lbw, falling over to the off side slightly as he missed a ball that nipped down the slope ever so slightly and would have hit the top of leg stump.
Strauss tried to fetch a bouncer from outside off stump and holed out to Ishant Sharma at long leg, reminiscent also of Brisbane 2006 when he was out hooking twice in the match.
Zaheer’s injury changed the complexion of the day entirely and visibly changed the dynamic on the field. Suddenly Trott, who was twice missed at slip, and Kevin Pietersen were able to play with more freedom while the Indians became tetchy and frustrated.
This match is young, this series is young but England may feel they have got away with it today. But they earned that benefit through their greater physical and mental rigour.
At some point, one hopes the summer will start properly. Today wasn’t that day. It was absorbing but not thrilling and the weather continues to be rank.
Shot of the day: Jonathan Trott cover-driving Harbhajan Singh, a rare release for England’s batsmen.
Ball of the day: Kumar’s first ball to Cook that swung a mile from outside leg. It was innocuous but spectacular.
Stat of the day: Dravid leads the world in outfield Test catches with 203 but today it was hard to see how.
Celeb spot of the day: Sir Mervyn King, Governor of the Bank of England, was in the MCC box in his capacity as president of Chance to Shine. Today was designated Chance to Shine day. Nothing else on Merv?
Ambush marketing of the day: The Adidas logo (apparently on a plastic bag) wedged in a window of the Indian dressing room. The Indian team are sponsored by Nike.
Announcement of the day: “MCC is pleased to announce that a Test match between England and West Indies will be played at Lord’s in 2012.” It had the nostalgic naivety of a century ago: “William Clarke’s XI will contest a match of cricket against the 22 of Norfolk.”
John Stern is a former editor of The Cricketer
Follow him on Twitter @Cricketer_John